Somali man faces torture, kidnapping charges in trial in Italy

Feb. 28, 2014 at 3:40 PM

AGRIGENTO, Italy, Feb. 28 (UPI) -- The trial of a Somali man, accused of helping overcrowd a migrant vessel that sank in October, killing 366 people, began Friday in Agrigento, Italy, Friday.

The trial of Mouhamud Muhidin, 34 -- charged with kidnapping, conspiracy to aid illegal immigration, human trafficking and sexual violence -- was adjourned shortly after it began Friday, the Italian news agency ANSA reported.

Prosecutors are relying on testimony of seven Eritrean survivors of the vessel's sinking, who say they were tortured, imprisoned and threatened by a gang that included Muhidin. The witnesses also said they saw women raped.

Authorities said Muhidin was nearly lynched when he was recognized within a migrants' holding center.

Survivors previously said they were taken hostage on the border between Libya and Chad and tortured until relatives paid ransoms. The prisoners were then allegedly taken to Tripoli, Libya, and housed until more ransoms were paid, after which they were taken to the ship that sank in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Lampedusa, Italy.

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